Saturday, August 1, 2009

Poker is a Cruel Mistress No Doubt

I've not blogged here in almost two weeks partly because I'm not entirely sure yet what I want this blog to be about, but when I got home from playing in the tournament at my local poker room last night, I knew there had to be an entry about what a bitch of a game the pokers can be.

Last night felt like it was going to be a very successful night. I caught solid hands early on that let me chip up without having to do too much stealing. I did run into a rough hand where I raised from early with a smallish pair, sixes to be exact. A later player with not much more chips than my initial raise amount went all in and I called. Turned out I was in a pair over pair situation and the results of the hand conformed to statistical expectation. I felt OK though as I still had enough to stick around. One note about that hand was that I made a larger than usual raise from UTG with my sixes. My opponent in the hand made some comments that let me know that my raise amount had given him the idea that I probably had a smaller pair and his eights were good. Thinking about it he was right, the idea of making a larger raise from early position to discourage callers is just a huge tell and one that I should not be repeating. Ironically, a couple of orbits later I looked down at sixes in early position again and made a normal raise. Got called by the same player and won a large pot off of him (flopping a set and filling up the river helped with that for sure).

That large pot got me on a bit of a roll and by the time we were down to the last ten (there were 33 entries including alternates to begin with) I was either second or first in chips. The other big stack was on the opposite end of the table and I couldn't figure his stack precisely. I was paying by big stack aggressively, but not recklessly and was feeling pretty good. Unfortunately, the hammer was about to fall.

It was folded to me in middle position and I had a pair of nines. I raised to three times the blind, got a couple of folds, and then an older gentlemen went all in with about twice my original bet. He'd been going all in several times in the last few hands and I read him as shoving with any cards that he would play, so I wasn't particularly concerned with his bet. Then a younger kid to the old guys left went all in behind him for much less. His stack was so small that I couldn't really factor him in, I made the call and flipped up my nines. Old guy flips up his hand, AQ. OK, this is pretty a pretty good situation for me, even if he draws out on me, I'm still sitting with some good chips and oh by the way, I'm favored against AQ. Then the younger kid turns up kings. Ouch, well at least I'm in the running for the side pot and maybe I'll catch a nine and take it all.

There's always that moment of anticipation when there is all in action preflop and the dealer gets ready to turn the first three cards. He started to put them out and when he flipped over the door card I saw a Queen. Things got worse as the rest of the flop spread and revealed another Queen and an irrelevant card. Well, know I'd really like to see a 9 on the turn, and the dealer obliged by putting out a third ... king. Well great, now I'm drawing dead. As it turns, the river was an A meaning that AQ would take the side pot with his underboat and the short stacked kid would take the main pot. Well, I'm still above average with my stack size, in fact I'm pretty sure I'm still second in chips. Shake it off.

A short while later, (blinds had gone up) I'm in the big blind. The same kid from the last hand limps and then the player on his right goes all in for just under 2x the big blind. The other big stack has the button and he calls the all in. I look down at the A4 of spades. This is a tricky spot. On the one hand this is a hand that isn't likely to hold up unless it makes a flush or a straight. I'm also concerned because the only player at the table who can knock me out is in the pot and will have position on me. While I'm thinking, the kid who limped puts in the chips for a call out of turn. OK, that removes another of my concerns that he might limp and then reraise. He started out the hand with probably around 5 big blinds, so I can't really put him on a strong hand. Plus I'm getting damn near 8-1 on a call and if I whiff the flop I'm not committed.

The flop came giving me the nut flush draw and a gutshot straight draw (12 outs) any of which I'm sure wins me the hand. I also think against three opponents I'm now close to if not a favorite to win the hand, so I push all in. The kid calls and the big stack goes in the tank and folds. The preflop all in player flipped over a couple of random face cards (no spade) and the kid turns over Ad Kh? What?! The kid had around five bb at the start of the hand and he limps with AK? The kid dodges all my outs and now I'm in trouble. A couple of hands later, there's two preflop all ins, I'm on the button with AK and I call all in. Turns out one of the all ins was Kings, I can't catch an ace, I'm done along with one other short stack and immediately, the five players left cut up the money.

Umm - that just sucked, and I'll be honest I was pretty hot right afterwards. Thinking about it afterwards, I really could not think of a different way to play those hands although I think the suited ace hand could be subject to some debate. In the end though, the fact that it was going to be a massive pot coupled with the fact that I could see the flop relatively cheaply and was getting great odds meant I had to call preflop. Once the flop comes as it does, I'm committed and I have to stay in.

So in other words, I think I played very good poker last night. Regardless though, I walked away with zilch. That's the way the game goes, I don't have to enjoy it, but I do have to be prepared to deal with it.

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